Yorgos Zois’ “Arcadia” has a beguiling structure. It follows a married couple heading to a seaside resort to identify the victim of a tragic car accident in a small town. Katerina (played by Angeliki Papoulia) is a neurologist, whereas Yannis (played by Vangelis Mourikis) is a once-respected former doctor. Within its first few moments, the film builds a sense of eeriness and mystery. We see the couple travel through a mostly deserted land, caught up in their own chains of thought. The brooding silence is enough to overwhelm us and make us curious. It compels us to contemplate and learn the reasons behind their despair. 

Although not identical, this filmmaking style reminded me of Angela Schanelec’s work. Schanelec also makes us dig deeper into the psyche of her characters – even if her work avoids the usual share of expositions. Her characters often wander around, solitarily, in search of something – be it hope, an escape, or a purpose. Zois uses a similar approach to follow his characters and their journey. But he uses ambiguity as a tool to maintain its murky, enigmatic tone.  

Yannis enters this desolate town due to his relationship with the deceased person. He has to identify the body of a fatal accident victim at the hospital. A local cop tells him that the victim’s car had fallen off the edge of a nearby bridge. At the time, she was accompanied by someone else. To learn further details, the couple visits the local mortuary. It pushes them to confront their buried past, which involves certain incidents they have not spoken about. The film portrays these elements in a rather unusual manner. We see a couple of scenes that seem far removed from reality and seem highly implausible.  

Through such moments, the film brings an element of magic realism, which sets it apart in its overall presentation. They make us question whether what we’re watching is real or not. Yet, these moments appear so seamlessly in the scenes that you consider them to be a plausible part of this world. The credit goes to Zois to make us believe in it.

A still from Arcadia (2024).
A still from “Arcadia” (2024).

Throughout the film, the characters encounter their past while silently grieving over an unattainable future. Their silences let the film maintain its somber tone, which helps balance out the absurdity in some of its scenarios. It makes us believe in their pathos and be deeply concerned about it. These nuances may seem trivial, but they add to the film’s overall impact.  

Instead of quickly resolving our queries, “Arcadia” chooses to slowly reveal bits and details about its characters. The film uses the characters’ curiosity to uncover or confront their regrets to lead us on this journey with them. The literal atmosphere plays a big part in its emotional impact since it keeps us rooted in the setting – that the characters seem almost stuck in – be it physically or mentally. The natural fogginess of the film’s locations and the depressing autumn season add to its brooding nature.

While exploring the realm of magical realism, “Arcadia” mulls over the themes of love, loss, grief, and the complications that come along with it. It introspects the need for letting go as an inseparable part of life. As the film progresses, we learn why Yannis resigned from his medical duties or why the couple uses only silences to communicate with each other – among its other mysteries. It gently handles their psychological concerns without letting any emotion go overboard in its execution.

Be it the pain that comes from someone’s existence or their loss, “Arcadia” uses moments of silence to immerse us in the characters’ turmoil. Emotions guide us to understand the facts. So, instead of being a mundane procedural thriller, it becomes an emotionally mature investigation of truth. The film remains invested more in its sentimental exploration than just blandly connecting the dots to its mystery. Vangelis Mourikis and Angeliki Papoulia become the soul of this melancholic ode to love. “Arcadia “excels in presenting their emotional bond despite a noticeable lack of spoken dialogue. As a result, it becomes a unique story of love that goes beyond conventions.  

Arcadia was screened at the 2024 Berlinale.

Arcadia (2024) Movie Links: IMDb, Wikipedia
The Cast of Arcadia (2024) Movie: Angeliki Papoulia, Vangelis Mourikis, Elena Topalidou, Nikolas Papagiannis, Asterios Rimagmos, Evangelia Andreadaki
Arcadia (2024) Movie Genre: Drama, Mystery | Runtime: 1h 39 Mins

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